Category Archives: Just Watching

Just Watching – February 2019

 For the last few years I’ve kept my eyes peeled for any item touching men and women who are over 85 years of age, the ones I call Super-Seniors.  They are the successor segment to the 65-85 year olds that throughout most of my life were called Seniors and often treated as if they were the last stop before heaven.  But given there are a lot more Super Seniors today than in the past and that their numbers are mounting.  Sadly the ignorance about them, even the denial of their existence by some seems to be mounting, too.  That probably should come as no surprise.  Not many today and fewer in the recent past live as if they will be old enough to example George Burn’s 95th birthday quip, “If I’d known I’d live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.”  That comment usually gets a wry guffaw of recognition in response.

But surprise, surprise.  Here I am within a few weeks of my 90th natal day.  Together with 490,000 Super-Senior men and women (with more coming stage center every day) I greet a new dawn.  In the near future public parking lots will be divided between “Handicap Parking” and “Really Handicapped Parking”.  It’ll be parking at the curb out on the street for everyone else.  I suppose that when that happens those 10% Senior discounts at restaurants and drug stores will be limited to Super-Seniors Only – first come, first served. 

Far-fetched?  Probably not.  Today, I’m told, in tiny Ecuador, long lines of people waiting to buy basic family goods form each day. Another but much shorter parallel line is also formed and monitored by the police.  It is limited to those who are infirmed or disabled, to pregnant women, to mothers with small children and to a group called the Third Age.  That Third Age is composed of people over 65 years of age who can prove it.  Anyone who tries to work their way into that line without proof of age are unceremoniously removed. 

Will the USA ever adopt a Third Age classification?  Who knows, but it has to be obvious that a kind of Third Age category is already upon us.  Look at the “older” age related housing, medical care or pension tsunami that is building in our society.  How many are projected to ultimately end up bankrupt or in default?  Think Tanks of all kind are tussling today with how the projected 20 billion people of our 2050 world will be supported.  Where will they live?  Will they have food and clean water?  What will the energy needs be in 31years? 

As you consider all that remember it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the world population reached one billion. It wasn’t until the 1930s that it doubled to two billion.  Now a population of twenty billion within 30 years?  Hey, wait a minute!   Large chunks of our R and C Resources readership may still be alive then!   As L’il Abner (remember him?) would have said, “Who’d a’ thunk it?”

Yes, indeed, “Who’d a’ thunk it?”  And that’s the question Super Seniors (plus parents, pastors, Think Tankers and concerned leaders of all kinds) need to wrestle with today.

As I was preparing this issue of Just Watching and thinking about sharing this kind of supersonic change for Super-Seniors there came to my mind a mythological Greek figure from the past: Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, king of Troy.  As one story about her goes she was object of the god Apollo’s affection.  He offered her the gift of prophecy if she would become his.  She said yes to the receiving the gift of prophesy (and received it) but then no to Apollo’s desires (and didn’t keep her word).  How did Apollo react?  He put a curse on her that while she would receive the gift of prophecy no one would believe her.  Possible?  Hardly.

There are many “prophets”, past and present, who deal with Cassandra’s double whammy.  They possess a needed truth but those with whom they most want to share it spurn their offering.   Possible?  How about probable! 

Many a Cassandra-like caring parent (prophet) yearns to guide an obstinate child who will not listen or obey.   Or, many a Cassandra-like faithful pastor (prophet) speaks the truth in love to an intractable parishioner or an unyielding parish.  Or, how about the Cassandra-like political visionary (prophet) who agonize over constituents who spurn 21st societal improvements.

All this is nothing new.  There is a well-known collective paraphrase of many Old and New Testament texts that essentially say, “There’s none so blind as he who will not see – or deaf as he who will not hear.”  Even so, the ministry of many past or present “prophets” (like Jeremiah, John the Baptist – your own Mom or Dad) is to painfully speak the truth no matter what.

So how’s it going with those in the 21st century who faithfully keep testifying to undeniable life realities?   My answer is, “Not so good”.  Cassandra’s curse is still very much alive.

Notwithstanding, R and C Resources will continue its focus on the needs of individuals, home life and local parishes. For personal reasons, since I am one, I’ve been especially concerned with the Super-Seniors among whom I find myself.  My goal is that of tending to a number of practical issues.

  1. I will keep pushing whomever I can toward a better ministry to Super-Seniors.
  2. I will continue exploring those post-85 years, a Bonus Land that God has given to a rising number of us! 
  3. I will recognize that change is a constant and that more of it is on the way.  It’s not over until it’s over.  Change isn’t slowing down even a little bit.   
  4. I need to remember that centuries before Christ was born the Romans taught each other: “Tempore mutantur, et nos mutamur in illes” (which means, “The times are changing and we are changing in them”).  Much earlier Greeks agreed.  Their cryptic saying was, “Panta rhei” (which means, “Everything flows”).  That quote from Ovid of old was later adopted and adapted by the Lutheran Reformers.   
  5. As a 21st century Super-Senior I am committed to blessing my heirs with Johnny Mercer’s 1944 instruction for living life in God’s Bonus Land.  He urged a three step approach of, “accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative while latching on to the affirmative”.  Super-Seniors might adopt that song as guidance for life.   What do you think?

In any case, today is the day God has given us.  As I hold it in my hand a well-known quote attributed to many surfaces: “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift – which is why we call it the Present.”   Why God has chosen to gift me as long as He has – and as long as He yet will – I know not.  But that fact that He urges me to unwrap it hour by hour and as best I am able, use it to His glory and for the benefit of all with whom He surrounds me.   In God’s economy of things each day is a mulligan.  Maybe next time I’ll be able to keep my head down and follow through.

Join me at the tee?


Just Watching – January 2019

I never thought I’d reach 90 years of age.  Actually I’m not there yet.  I’ve still got to make my way through three months, one week and a couple days.  But I’m getting closer and closer. 

When my 90th B-day finally dawns I will join 450,000 other Super Senior nonagenarians living (as in “alive”) in the USA today.  That’s a lot of people.  There may be a few more by then than now because more and more Americans are not only living longer but living longer longer.  (Read that sentence again, please.)  Both the raw population numbers of those who are over 90, and their percentage of the USA’s population pool, is growing by the day.  Unless something awesome happens when I announce, “Today is my 90th birthday!” that stunning statement (for me, at least) will be met with a yawn and a bored, “Is that so” by most others. 

For a long time I’ve been flagging the changes that have been taking place and that are still happening within the population segment we have traditionally capsuled as “Seniors”.  It’s not the same group today as it was in the past.  It has been ballooning until it has become a huge chunk of folks, threatening to overwhelm in size (and demands) all other population segments.  Most haven’t noticed that.  For most the term Senior means, “…someone over 60…” who may not have a job anymore. 

But there’s a new and very different breed of cat alive and active on today’s traditional Senior scene.   She/he not only needs to be acknowledged as a separate reality but one that needs a defining name as well.  I’ve been pushing, “Super Senior” and with it mean to identify and set aside those who are over 85 years of age.  The adjectival addition of “Super” doesn’t mean that this group is of a superior quality but only that it needs recognition as a different and separated segment.   

As 2019 is dawning, my goal is to nail down what is so distinctively unique about Super Seniors.  I am in a good position to do so because Audie and I are, in fact, Super Seniors already.  We are also in and among a number of richly diverse Super Senior groups.  One is made up of a couple hundred or more fellow travelers from Trinity Lutheran Church (a Roselle, Illinois parish I have served within since 1978).  I still facilitate largely four Senior groups within that church each week listening carefully to what they have to say.  Many are Super Seniors.  In addition by phone, Facebook and e-mail we regularly network and commiserate with a few hundred more coast-to-coast Senior and Super Senior relatives and friends (though that circle gets smaller day by day) as they make their way into an ever changing personal and political tomorrow. 

But the Super Senior broth of Audie and me is thicker than ever before now that we live, move and have our new being at Windsor Manor in Carol Stream, Illinois surrounded by hundreds of other Super Seniors most of whom are of a solid Evangelical bent.  They come at many things differently.  We watch, listen and learn.  In addition I read all I can of what diverse creative folk produce who are interested in and write about the ever expanding and sweeping world of Super Seniors.  

And, of course I feed on what my literary companions of R and C Resources prepare and publish each month and the reactions we all get from our readers!  All those varied stimuli broaden my view of the Super Senior universe and trigger my Super Senior synapses.  I believe I am watching enough Super Senior variants that what I report about them (including what I note concerning you and me) is meaningful.

 want to start my January 2019 report by establishing a foundational principle of Super Senior-dom and the life that I believe is best lived within it.  That principle, stated as simply as I am able, is that Super Senior-dom is a Bonus Land in which my life can be the free-est, fullest and least inhibited I have ever experienced – if I want it to be. 

I picked up the term Bonus Land from an e-mail someone sent me.  I regret I don’t remember who sent it to me or the source he cited.  Mea culpa.  But as I’ve worked with it the term seems to fit the post-80 life I’ve been living as a person, a husband, a father, grandfather and friend.  I’m careful about hurting others by what I say.  I don’t offer instant opinions on every subject.  I’m generous about how I both evaluate and comment upon local, regional and national political (and ecclesiastical) figures.  The world in which I live reminds me of the “Oklahoma” song, “…Don’t Fence Me In”.  I need and have the room to explore and be all that God would have me experience – and so do all Super Seniors.  We’re a rising tide (for sure) that gives life to the saying, “A rising tide floats all boats.”

To that end may God empower us to be a positive and effective force throughout all the days which Psalm 139:16 says He has already set aside for us.   Can’t be a whole lot more, but….

As 2019 opens may you be as blessed in your tomorrows as He has blessed Audie and me in our yesterdays.      



Just Watching – December 2018

For the past ten years Rich and Charlie Resources has bannered itself as an “An Encouraging Word For All Who Serve”.  That’s a lot of folks, too many actually.  So we have limited our chunk of “all who serve” to parents, pastors/teachers and/or parish leaders.  That’s still a lot of people.

It’s not that we don’t care about others.  At various times Rich I have been “others” by serving as national/regional church body officials, institutional executives and we’ve even dabbled a bit in academia.  Those activities and those who fill them are all valuable and important but we decided to zero in on chosen trio be they female or male, young or old, clergy or lay.  Now, on the edge of my 90s, I want to add to our bannered purpose an accent on the Super Senior segment of life for those who live as long as Rich, me and a growing number of older guys and gals.

A year ago my December JUST WATCHING featured two items related to our publishing concern.  One of them was a remembrance of a very uncommon “common” person, Nancy Starck.  Today, no longer with us, she rests in His peace.  The world is poorer for her passing.  Many were touched by my report on her life.  They told me so.

The other item I wrote about in that issue was not about a person, but a piece of art, an engraving by Cranach of a16th century family doing their Christmas.  Even though it was a detailed snapshot of life 400 years ago it had the feel of the 20th century family Christmases I experienced as a child in Wichita, Kansas during the 1930s.

I featured those two items in JW a year ago because in my opinion, there was nothing then (or now) better in this world than having a Christian friend like Nancy nor experiencing Christmas in a Christian family like the one with which I was blessed as a child.  Both had a “heaven on earth” feel that in liturgical language has been described as a “fore taste of things to come”.   

As a Super Senior (remember last month’s JW introduction of that term?), I am a year older than when I wrote about the wonder of Christian family ala Cranach and the joy of having a Christian friend ala Nancy.  A lot has changed for me as I moved another year’s march nearer Jerusalem the Golden.  During the year, the roll call of those that have reached our common goal has gotten larger while the circle of Christian families and friends, who remain with me on earth, though still unbroken, has not only gotten smaller but has changed in significant ways.  From now on I intend to write more about what has happened in my Super Senior world (and yours?) as I work through the wonder and mystery of exploring its unique and previously unrecognized aspects.

Do I need to remind both you and me that the Super in Super Senior is not a quality measurement, (I’m not better or more valuable than anything else on earth), but is a kind of a tag   marking my chronological niche in a changing world where people not only live longer than ever before but are living longer, longer?  Ours is not-your-grandpa’s-world, a fact that any who is still in motion past their eightieth birthday needs to recognize or they will be and remain out of step with life.

As an illustration of Super Senior change, Audrey and my world keeps getting more multi-generationally complicated.  We have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, all of whom simultaneously attend one of our family gatherings.  When someone says, “Dad…”, three of us (me, my son and my grown grandson) all look up at the same time thinking someone is calling them.  Today it’s usually not me who is wanted, nor whose answer to a question is desired, nor whose opinion on a topic is sought.  As a matter of face I increasingly don’t understand pan generational concerns today and couldn’t give a useful answer if they wanted me to.  At family gatherings in 2018, generations can live in different worlds.  They can even try to communicate in different languages stemming from different experiences and different outlooks on life.  Sometime I don’t understand them even as they can have a hard time understanding Super Senior me.  When asked as a great grandpa to attend the birthday party of a three year old great grandchild they don’t think about my inner question, “Are there steps involved?”  Steps are a casual concern for my nimble descendants, but for me with my neuropathy and cumbersome walker it can be downright scary.  In responding to them I want to not only acknowledge their invitation with appreciation but also help them begin to see that one day they will be dealing with the challenges that come with the Super Senior life.  I want to do this without coming off as a self-centered, grumpy, old Crocker well past his prime.    

Rich and I want to help people nearing or in the Super Senior world.   With few experienced guides to show them the way, today’s Super Seniors need a kind of 21st century Yellow Brick Road TripTik so they can live the Super Senior life to its fullest.  Yesterday’s guidance doesn’t always help much.  Our ancestors didn’t deal with such a high volume of rapid change compressed into their lifetime as we do.  Not only did change happen more slowly then but life expectancy was lower.  Change was happening, of course, but at a different pace.  Not so today.   There’s no way to stop the world so that we can get off.   

However, guided by God’s Word and surrounded with help from other of God’s people of the past came at life the best way they could.  They adopted for themselves and then put into personal practice God’s plan for living effective lives no matter their age or the era in which they lived.   As the Spirit moved them, and as best they could, they dealt with their world and with one another in ways that reflected the love with which the Father dealt with them most clearly: in the redemptive life, death resurrection and ascension of Jesus, His Son and our Savior.  In the future as God gives it to me I want to share what I see of love at work in my Super Senior world.  While I still intend to hew to R and C Resources’ initial aim of providing encouragement for all who serve, I will have a special concern for those who are doing their serving as Super Seniors – and would you believe it – beyond. 

In the process I’ll try to weave into my writing a running report of how Audie and I are dealing with our own Super Senior life at Windsor Park (130 Windsor Park Drive C304, Carol Stream, IL 60188).  Lots of excitement.  Lots of change.  Lots of fun.

While we have the same e-mail: there is a new land line 1-630-933-9495.  I’d give you my cell phone number, too, except I have a hard time remembering where I leave it and even when I know its location I often don’t get there in time to answer.  Besides, I’m never quite sure of my cell phone number since I seldom call me.  Oh, the joys of nearing 90 as a Super Senior, and of getting ready for another old fashioned Cranach-style Christmas. 

May yours be as blessed as I am sure ours will once again be marked by fun, family and a living faith.








Just Watching – November 2018


I don’t mean to brag but I’ve often unintentionally found myself on the early edge of many positive and truly progressive changes in our church especially when giving some new “dog” a name. 

Of course I’m smart enough to realize that just because a new title or term came to my mind early on doesn’t mean the name was my creation.  I was more likely little more an early user, not the coiner, of terms like Family Life Center, repositioning, Midweek Bible School, Post-Easter Youth Camp and pastoral assistant.  Each showed up and was adopted because they made sense in the context of congregational or personal pastoral necessity. Not all new words, mine or that of others lasted long.  Using “God’s Bank” to describe a congregational agency for collecting what is now known as “church extension funds” went south fast when we discovered it was illegal to use the word “bank” for anything that is not certified and controlled by the US government.   Eraser, please!

Interesting as all that may be it is rear-view mirror stuff, yesterday’s concerns.  Today I’m more concerned with a windshield issue that needs nomenclature attention, to wit: “What’s the best clarifying name we can use for the eruption of post-70 men and women flooding our world?”  If we are concerned with and willing to serve that mushrooming age group increasingly more women than men what shall we call it?

After fussing with that question for some time I am increasingly of the mind that they be called Super Seniors.  In adopting the term for myself I concluded that both words require serious consideration.  I found that the term has a generational feel suggesting both a remembrance of yesterday and a thoughtful evaluation of tomorrow both accenting life value and life circumstance.  Both of which are true.

Today’s Super Seniors are at an exceptional life moment rampant with potential.  Since I am determined as a near nonagenarian to keep banging away at the term Super Senior let me open my understanding of this critical life concern in this Just Watching with the negative: what-it-does-not-mean.

Super Senior does not insinuate in any sense a superiority of this life moment or of those who are living it.  Super Seniors are not qualitatively better than anyone – or anything.  They just are.  Those of us who are in our 80s, 90s or beyond do not have a physical, emotional, or existential leg up on any other  life moment as we are so rudely reminded each morning by our daily ration of aches, pains, awesome challenges and limitations.  How could we pose ourselves as better-than any of the millions of those younger than we are, even if but by a decade or two?  They surround us every day and could easily leave us in their dust in most life encounters.  However, be of good cheer.  There are some amazing up-sides to the Super Senior life that I’ll zero in on a little later.

But back on topic, Scripture has a delightful way of talking about the world of Super Seniors.  As an example read Psalm 90, verse 10 in particular.  Massage those words for their fullest meaning.  As you do so, think about the Psalmist’s take on the Super Senior years that such a comparative few have experienced since the dawn of history without reaching the remarkable stage in life that has been reserved for so many today.  The ages of those who lived before Noah aside it was not long after his watery years that life expectancy steadily settled to Psalm 90’s 60 or 70 years, and later in the Middle Ages less than that.

So it was that when the Prussian leader Otto Bismarck showed up in the 1880s suggesting that people retire from the work force with a governmental pension at 70 years of age – which just happen to also be the average life expectancy in his country at that time.  So, since most didn’t live long enough, his plan was more a PR artifice than a funded retirement.

Actually, average life expectancy didn’t increase by much from Bismarck’s day to when the Social Security Act was passed by congress under FDR in the 1930s.  While the promised monthly checks weren’t very large there weren’t many in the 1930s who qualified.  But then came WWII after which for many reasons life expectancy at birth in the USA began to grow until it reached the 70.5 years of age today.  Now don’t nod off on me.  Pay attention to the caveat, “…at birth”.  Audie, and millions of other Super Seniors in our country shot past that “at birth” date years ago.  We are on the edge of our ninth decade, our 90s, and in our lifetime have even picked up a projected additional life expectancy of over four more years.  And so have millions more.  With every new day our “D-day” is steadily moving further into the future.  A past morning TV program each day featured the name of people who had a 100th birthday.  They stopped that.  There were too many centenarians. 

Even cartoonists realized what has been happening over the past 50 years.  In one panel Peanuts and Snoopy are sitting side-by-side at the end of a pier peering into the sunset — or maybe a sunrise. 

Peanuts says, “Someday we will all die, Snoopy.” 

Snoopy answers, “True, but on all other days we will not.” 

Perceptive Super Seniors of today know that while physical death is certain for all it is not necessarily imminent.   We know we’ve got a lot of living to do before Elijah’s chariot is scheduled for us.  Audie and I still attend lectures on personal growth concerns, make ready our flowers for next Spring, eat healthy food to keep us strong for tomorrow, add to our savings account as we can and make our plans for next year’s family events.  There’s not many to help us with our tomorrows since Super Seniors are by the very nature of things pioneers.  Based on their personal experiences, who can show us how to live the Super Senior years to their utmost?   Nevertheless here we are facing our tomorrow while trying to figure out what, “For me to live is Christ,” means in 2018 and beyond.

Two things for sure:  

  1. Audie and I need to make exploring our Super Senior world a life priority;
  2. The church needs to pay much closer attention to the Super Senior world and to those in her ranks who are active in it.

Happy last birthday, all you guys, and the year(s) that lie between now and then –


PS  I didn’t scare you did I?  If I did I won’t apologize.  It’s like Harry Truman’s come-back when people in a crowd would shout out, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!”   He’d answer, “I don’t give them hell – I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.”

Just Watching – October 2018

Audie and I have made “the move”.   Teetering on the edge of 90 we have joined Abraham, Sara and Lot by putting our Ur of the Chaldees (101 Villa Way) in the rear view mirror while heading for our personal ultimate Promise Land with maybe a layover or two in between, the latest being Windsor Park Manor.

Our Windsor Park Postal Service address is 130 Windsor Park Drive C304, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.   Our e-mail and cell phone addresses remain the same but the telephone land line number has changed to 630-933-9395.  With all the data in hand we feel we will be easy for our friends and family to find – when and if they seek.

As I write out all those new numbers needed to locate us my mind turns to an old post card that was addressed to my grandfather, William Steinkamp, in the1890s.  It was simply addressed to Teacher Steinkamp, Topeka, Kansas.  That’s it – and he got it.  Skip any digit of my numerical descriptive and my mail is likely as not to end up in the dead letter box of Pocatello, Idaho.

In my current circumstance I am reminded of George Burn’s line about reaching 95 years of age.  He said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”  My spin on that is that if I’d known how tough it to move your residence when nearing 90 I would have taken that step years ago.  And so say many who are matching our age while experiencing their own pilgrim’s progress.

In the midst of our transitioning I came upon something by Dr. Roger Weise, a highly regarded Chicago area geriatrician (and LCMS pastor’s son) that I had quoted over a year ago.  He said:

  1. Age is change over time.
  2. As we age it takes us longer to adapt to change.
  3. The older we are the more unique we become.

In reference to #1 I keep forgetting that change is and always has been a constant.  Every new day is actually a brand-new day.  Like Moses’ manna, my yesterdays get stale and nearly inedible as time passes.  That’s nothing new – except that it keeps surprising me.  Tempus fugits.  Panta rhei. Whether in Latin, Greek or English it’s all the same truth: time flies

A year or so after I had retired as a parish pastor a kid came up to me in a grocery store and asked, “Didn’t you used to be Pastor Mueller?”  Yep, I used to be, but no longer.  Now I’m another being busily trying to figure out how to handle life in a new and very different world.

I also like Wiese’s #2 and #3: change doesn’t come easier as time passes nor does being unique mean being better.  I am a one-of-a-kind, not only as compared to others but as compared to what I did in the past.  Today names can fail me; words can escape me; specific memories often fade.  I need and receive unsolicited assistance from so many people – and I gladly accept it.  Dr. Weise is so right!

All he says that applies to me as a person applies to everyone else, too, though age related denial is rampant – and often laughable.  

It also applies to families and congregations.  Many don’t see  that unstoppable steam engine of change that is high-ballin’ down their life’s main line, bell ringing and whistle blowing and  fail to hear Johnny Cash as he sings, “Do you hear that train a-commin’?”  Well, do I, we, they?

As I’ve aged I have noticed that today’s younger folks-families-congregations accept, adapt to and then adopt their choo-choo of change.  Many have clearly adopted Alexander Pope’s 1711 advice (which shows how long this thing about change has been around),

“Be not the first by whom the new are tried,

Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”

In that quote I didn’t pick up on his “are tried” in the past.   Pope’s “the new” that “are tried” is a plural.  There’s a lot of new going around.  Some of it turns out pretty good – others don’t.  But it was a constant in his day.  It is still a constant in ours. 

  • That’s why some church’s avant-garde parish practices look so weathered and worn today. Michael’s boat was rowed ashore long ago. 
  • That’s why many of yesterday’s tried and true family traditions are so irrelevant today. They no longer address reality – few families regularly eat supper together nor do they believe that no one should eats until all have prayed together. 
  • Yesterday’s clothing fashions and its pop music look and sound so dated today – like the CDs, tapes and records I dumped when we moved and the scads of old, old clothes Audie and I reluctantly pitched when we relocated. Neither of us kept up with the changing times. 

Older people like Audie and me know all that full well.  We have down sized our home three times over the years and in the process reluctantly dumped “tons” of what we no longer use, no longer need and our kids don’t want. 

Weise’s Observation #2 opens the door to Observation #3:  “…with the passing years, each becomes more unique, unencumbered with much of yesterday’s absolutes”.  Or, maybe were weighed down with yesterday’s irrelevancies.

The truth seems to be that one way or another, people/families/churches are more unique as the years pass.  It’s fascinating how older churches take on a patina of uniqueness while denying change.  One nameless “old lady” refused for years to translate its original German language Constitution into English even though only a few spoke their mother tongue.  When tough issues arose they would tussle with it long enough to develop a kind of group consensus and then ask the pastor, whom they all trusted and whom they believed read German, what their hallowed document had to say on the subject.  Once he sensed what the group was ready – or not ready – to do he announced that their group opinion was supported by their Constitution!  He was their 20th century Oracle of Delphi. 

That church also had Easter Sunrise Services at 9:30am for two reasons: 1) fewer members each year were willing to drive to their inner city location before dawn, and 2) and the neighbors whom they were trying to attract didn’t get up early.  So they did the Joshua-thing: they announced that their Easter Sunrise Service would be held at 9:30 AM.  Only an older congregation, unique in many ways, could pull that off.

To Dr. Weise’s three bullets I would offer as a footnote that those of us who are really old are like Timex watches in the past that can take a licking and keep on ticking.  Nothing makes that point clearer for me as an older pastor than liturgical vestments.  Robes have radically and constantly changed since I bought my first black de rigueur Geneva gown in 1949!  Who wears one today? ‘Time and tide wait for no man.”  True, but it is also true that, “Time and change don’t dawdle either.”

So here I am, face to face with Dr. Weise’s simple formula that touches me, my family and my church: “Age is change over time” – and the times are certainly a-changin’.  Ain’t that the truth!


Charlie “Just Waking Up” van Winkel

I plan to stay on this super-senior kick including what that means, since no one else seems to have much good to say about it and there’s certainly little that’s positive.—and there is so much that God has reserved for us as our life’s stars begin to shine.

Just Watching – September 2018

Audie and I have been so involved in gathering our earthly good in preparation for what we think will be our penultimate life move to Windsor Park Manor (sound elegant, eh?) on or about September 20 that my Just Watching deadline snuck up on me. 

One reason that happened is that even after major down-sizing three times in the last fifteen years, I’m in a state of awe over how much still has to be moved.  I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have such great children by birth and marriage plus some wonderful grandchildren who together have made our imminent move possible. 

Not sure how to get at this month’s Just Watching. I decided to check out what I wrote last year.  It still speaks to our family’s moment. A year ago I wrote:

“It looks to me more and more each day that Henry Lyte’s 1847 hymn, “Abide With Me”, had it right: “…change and decay in all around I see…”.  Change for sure.  And a lot of what’s left of my surroundings looks like decay. 

Lest you think you are about to be hit with the rant of a cranky old man let me assure you that as I write, I know, accept and glory in the rest of that verse: “… Oh Thou who changest not abide with me.” 

Henry completed this hymn three weeks before his death from tuberculosis.  Knowing that has helped me appreciate his masterpiece as a whole and that familiar line in particular.  His theme and the way he peppered his end-of-life hymn with the pronouns “I” and “me” has made it a faith favorite for nearing 300 years. 

Change has been a generational constant from our world’s Day One whether as between generations or within them.  And decay?  The ardent evolutionist’s premise that creation trends toward improvement over the eons on its own doesn’t match my perception or experience. 

Maybe that’s why a precis of Concordia Seminary’s Dr. Paul Raabe that I found in struck me as it did.  His topic features challenges (he called them “Elephants in the Room”) that LCMS congregations as a whole and her members individually face every day.  I’ll list his specifics and then leave it to you to determine how each plays out in your world.  By the way, he says they are all interconnected.

Elephant 1.  The challenge of a geographical mismatch we face in that most congregations and schools of the LCMS are located in the middle of the country and in rural areas, but most of the US population lives on the two coasts and in huge metro areas.

Elephant 2.  The challenge of reaching and attracting the multi-ethnic population in the U.S., (Hispanics, Africans, and Asians, for example) to our predominately Caucasian congregations.  Families?  Communities?

Elephant 3.  The challenge of non-church-attendance.  Surveys show that on any given Sunday only 18% of the U.S. attend a church…over 80% do not.  Are most Americans simply not “into” church and as Robert Putnam would put it, go “bowling alone?”

Elephant 4.  The challenge of working in a multi-religious environment not only with non-Christian religions but also with many different versions of Christianity.  Many Americans we seek to evangelize have preconceived notions about Christianity that are distortions of the Christian faith and life – at least the one in which I was reared.

Elephant 5.  The challenge of biblical illiteracy among church-going Christians.  Many Christians cannot speak and think in larger biblical ways; they only know a few biblical sound bites.  Along with that many Lutherans are unfamiliar with the basic documents of our denomination like the Small Catechism (not to mention the Large).

Elephant 6.  The challenge of living the Christian-life in this time and place.  What writes the script for non-Christians view of life writes the script for many Christians as well: the entertainment industry, social media, corporate America, radical individualism and current popular and/or political ideologies (take your red, blue or multi-colored choice).  As a result, the life of many Christians differs very little from that of non-Christians.

Dr. Raabe’s “wrap” is as challenging as his Six Elephants:

“Every generation is called to be faithful in its own time and place, to confess the truth of the gospel (Galatians 2:5), to teach the written Word of God in its truth and purity (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17), to walk in the ways of the Lord (Isaiah 2), to proclaim repentance unto the forgiveness of sins to all nations (Luke 24:44-49).  With such huge, overwhelming, elephant-like challenges facing us, we are tempted to lift up our hands and cry out in utter despair, “What’s the point?”  But it is 2017 anno domini, in the year of the Lord.  Jesus the Messiah, crucified and risen for all, is that Lord.  Therefore our labor in his name is not in vain.”


How are you dealing with the Six Elephants in yourself and in your world of family, church and community?  Denying that the Elephants do not loom large in your life won’t cut it.

I once saw a book plate featuring a sailing ship hull down heading toward for the horizon and the words, “More to Come”.  That’s a very Biblical take on life both existentially (our day-in-day-out stuff) and eternally (Henry Lyte’s abide-with-me views).  We are all that ship, sails full and billowing, driving through the waters toward a horizon over which we will topple into oblivion (as some see the future), or are heading with Henry and millions of God’s people past and present toward and into our home port.  What about you? 

As for me and my house we believe there’s more to come – and more to do – until as we are safely harbored with Him.”

So far the replay of 2017 thoughts.  Now as Audie and I move on into another of life’s chronological levels and a brand new residential arena, we move forward believing that. “… yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery while today is His gift – which is why we call it the present.” Whoever originally authored that phrase is not important.  Knowing that its truth for me and my house, is.

On September 20th Audie and I will say again, “This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it,” Amen to that.

Vaya con Dios,


Just Watching – August 2018

As I wind my way down life’s road toward a 90th birthday a number of things are on my mind, three in particular.  They organize under familiar headings.  Can you fill in the blanks?

  • Something __ __ __, 2) Something __ __ __, 3) Something__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __.

#1  Something __ __ __.

Last Monday an e-mail popped up on my computer.  It was from an old acquaintance.  It’s not that he is old.  Not at all.  He’s maybe seventeen.  Some years ago I was his once-a-week-elementary-school-lunchtime mentor.  He was such a little kid, a recent immigrant with an electric mind, wild imagination, curiosity about everything and boundless energy.  For seven years we met and talked each week about whatever was on his mind.  Actually for the most part he talked and I listened.  He thought I was a paid school employee doing my duty rather than a volunteer who wanted to be his friend. 

I lost contact with him when he moved out of elementary school into High School.  Through teachers I knew I was somewhat aware of how he was doing.  Not too good.  I had lost weekly one-on-one contact. He didn’t respond to the e-mails.  In time I stopped sending them but I did keep him in my prayers – and waited.   

Through the grapevine I heard he was making some poor choices, had hooked up with a bad crowd and was starting to dabble with drugs.  In time heard he had gotten into trouble and was transferred to a remedial education program.  He also broke a leg and was immobilized for about a month.  I now know that while his body was inactive, not so his mind.  Alone and at home he remembered among other things our hours together and finally he decided to write me. 

His letter opened with, “Not a day goes by that you aren’t in my thoughts.”  From that point on it only got better.  In a long posting he reported on his life since last we had talked and apologized for letting our contact flag.  He quoted Isaiah 4:10 (would you believe it!) and closed by saying he would understand if I didn’t want to contact him anymore.  His wrap?  “…you will always be in my heart dear friend.”  Oh my!  In a few lines something very old re-budded and blossomed anew.

Reading his letter my mind went back to Dr. Walter Wente a teacher whom I met when I was barely a teen.  He was unbelievably patient with both me and others like me during our challenging early teen years but he never gave up on us as we were growing up. 

If I was the kind of mentor my young friend needed as he was growing it was because I had had such a great one in my teens.  So much that has been old in my past became old gold.

# 2  From what’s old to what is  __ __ __.

For Audie and me on the edge of our 90s the next word refers to new housing and a new take on life. 

It has become increasingly clear to us that we had to find a senior’s residence for our future because we needed to do less cooking (but more of the same good eating); less tending our living quarters up (while maintaining the same life standards Audie has set over the years); less got-to’s and more get-to’s (sustaining our connection with family, old friends and other familiar connections).  After checking out many possibilities we chose to make Windsor Park Manor in Carol Stream, Illinois our next stop on our life’s road.  We sought and found.   

Our children, grandchildren and friends have all been enormously helpful in the search for our Shangri La.  One of the lessons I learned as we searched is that learning how to accept help that is offered and that, stubborn German that I am, I need.  Change is a constant that means I need constant assistance in facing it.  Many things I once did easily I can no longer do but a great day dawned when I recognized that the world is full of people who are as eager to help me as I once delighted in helping others.   What goes around really does come around – if we let it.

Really believing that readies me for the tidal wave of surprising new things from many surprising corners of life with which God blesses His older “children” – including things that did not originate with us, like this one, ker-splash!:

#3   Something __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __.

Did you say “borrowed”?  Right you are.

For years Rich and I have been beating the bushes on behalf the joy of ageing.  Make that JOY.  Opposing almost all we have been saying are the endless line up of products guaranteed to make you look young again.  Why would I want to do that?  It took me a long time to develop those wrinkles, crow’s feet, silver threads among the gold.  Making my way through the teens and twenties into my thirties, middle age and leading up to an empty nest has been a long, tough battle through adolescence.  Don’t tell me all there is to look forward to are black balloons, over-the-hill banners, and moaning about the deteriorating quality of life after our 40th or 50th birthday.    Help!  And help there is from the AARP, no less.

Whether AARP borrowed from a sturdy but small band who have been fighting the battle against joy-less ageing or they from us a battle line is forming taking their cue from the traditional Hispanic celebration of quinceanera (marking a young lady’s 15th birthday) by pushing for a new holiday they call Cincuentaneros which celebrates one’s 50th birthday as one of life’s highlights, a door to more of what life has to offer in the great years yet to come.  Mark it.  I’ll have more about this “borrowed” holiday in the months to come.

Blessings on your days.  May they be filled with God’s goodness that come to you  as something old, something new or something borrowed.  One thing for sure, when He holds you in His even what looks blue will be beautiful.


Just Watching – July 2018

My report of Dr. Laura Christensen’s “perennial” insights from the May ’18 AARP Bulletin had hardly bedded down in my mind before I began living out the life about which she had written. 

It started when, over the last weekend, I felt very tired.  Unknown to me my temperature was working its way up to and then past 102 degrees as an infection was building that attacked my blood, my heart and other inner parts of my body.  The first I realized something bad was going on was when I found myself lying on the floor (how’d I get here?) being questioned by two burly but kindly EMTs (how’d they get here?) at 2AM.  Did I know where I was?  (I think so.)  Did I know the year?  (1980?)  Did I know our president?  (Reagan, of course.)

One out of three – not bad.  With that the adventure really swung into full force. 

I don’t share what follows seeking sympathy.  My hope is to share with my peers some newer “perennial” insights – like that we who are actual “perennials” react to physical  events in life very differently at 89 than we would have at 29.  At 29 a 102+ degree temperature and an accompanying infection is a different and more easily controlled critter than that which dropped me to the floor, confused my thinking and threatened to spread a serious infection to my blood, my heart and other parts of me.  

And so it was that at 2 AM Thursday last I was wheeled into the emergency entrance of St. Alexian hospital and involuntarily enrolled in an unscheduled extension course focused on everyday “perennial” world happenings.  

The faculty? Younger, skilled and hardworking medical specialists of all kinds who are on duty, 24/7, rolling electronic devices from room to room while drawing blood, quantifying pressures and tracking nerve responses.    In terms of gender, race, creed or color the small army that I came to know are a microcosm of our wide, wide world. 

Why do I write?

I’m amazed at how out of touch with reality so many of us are.  Age denial on a personal level is rampant in our world.  Worse yet age is seen as a problem rather than a rising part of our perennial life itself.  Facing our today while preparing for tomorrow is seen by all too few as Longfellow’s “…opportunity itself though in another dress…” and fewer yet as his, “stars invisible by day.”  Stars!  Shmars!  Close the drapes.  Maybe it will all go away. 

Go away?  Why?  It’s all part of God’s plan.  I don’t want to miss a thing.  What I need is all the help I can get for interpreting His present while working at foretelling His future, God’s great gifts – for me and you.

There’s so much more to see and say about the perennial life.  Would I like to be 16 again?  What did I do so wrong that I would have to live that age all over again and miss out on the wondrous perennial world that surrounds me today?

More of the perennial world to come!

Blessings,  Charlie

Just Watching – June 2018

Perennial.  An R and C word for the month.  Perennial.  Got it? The word is usually a descriptive relating to flowers or plants or some vegetables.  (A perennial is a plant that is enduring and recurs annually like daffodils, day lilies, asparagus or hosta.)  Recently an aging “expert” applied it to men and women in my age bracket.  Imagine that: me a perennial!

The latest AARP Bulletin (May 2018) contained a Q and A segment featuring Dr. Laura Carstensen who was described as a top aging expert on staff at Stanford University.  Just think of it!  One of our nation’s premier universities has a faculty member rated as a “top aging expert”!  A hundred and fifty years ago “aging”, and a related word like gerontology weren’t even recognized as a topic for university study.

So says Dr. Carstensen who writes, “When I was in graduate school 30 years ago, old age was considered to be pathological.  (Pathology means, ‘…involving, caused by, or of the nature of a physical or mental disease’).”  A disease, yet! 

She continues, “…and I happily went along with that.  But when I began studying elders I found that they were doing really well emotionally, even when they weren’t doing so well physically.  They were generous, thoughtful and emotionally complex. And I thought ‘If those qualities are growing (nationally) because our population is aging, then we’d be idiots not to use that resource to improve society’.”

Then her zinger.  She said that she had begun describing people like me and my peers who are well past 70 as “perennials”.  Why?   We aren’t over-the-hill annuals as some would have it.  We are of a blossoming cycle that annually produces fresh growth in every new season of life.  We’re not over the hill and then on to a of never ending path of down, down, down.  Perennials experience annual renewal on the ladder of life as more and more of us not only live longer but live longer – longer! 

I recently zipped past my 89th birthday on my way to 90.  As I understand the term perennial relates to me as I head for a world of greater growth and broader service, especially to my descendants.   But from whom am I to learn about this upward and onward take on life?  Not from any ancestral male Mueller.  I am the longest lived Mueller male in direct lineage going back to 1680 and beyond.  So from whence will come a helping hand?

At one level the answer to me is the same-old-same-old.  My help comes from the Lord who guides me in and by the Word that is “…a lamp to my feet and a guide to my path” (Psalm 119: 105).  It is there to aid me as it has helped all generations deal with “change and decay” since God’s Day One. 

But what Dr. Carstensen means about seeing my aging life in perennial terms is that both I and those around me are called to come at our present and future with a perennial mindset.  Today’s people and today’s challenges are different from any in the past.  Living longer and living longer – longer means we are meant to face God’s many, many “new” deals with the perennially “renewed” body He gives us.  

We can’t act as if we are not of the jet age, the electronic age, the age of scientific change (and hopefully advances) on every side.  We need to think ahead to the developing world of not just of our children, of our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren – and even beyond.  What we will do will depend on what we see developing perennially.

One example of how that happens comes from the 1970s and 1980s when our parish had a vision for helping congregations enter the 20th century computer age feet first.  Hoping to help that happen they gave dozens of computers and church related computer programs to churches that were open to a little push. 

In the process of doing that there would usually be a church meeting during which someone would protest introducing computers to the church ending his speech triumphantly asking, “What can you do with a computer that you couldn’t do with a pencil and paper?”  My answer?  “Nothing – except you don’t.”  A little more fussing and then the group would be overcome with an advance case of common sense and enter the computer age. 

So here I am today wondering how best to help older people come to grips with what it means to be a perennial.  It seems to me that we need to apply Wayne Dyer’s observation to this moment:

“When you change the way you look at a thing, the thing you look at changes.”

If today’s octogenarians can be helped to see themselves as perennials they would simultaneously recognize that there is more to life than just surviving.  Instead they would be open to living a life that is more exciting, lively, busy and challenging than it has ever been before.  Audie and I have been led to see that three reasons we are still here is to 1) serve our four grown children (and their spouses), 2) a ton of grandchildren that are ours by birth or marriage and 3) the cherry atop our familial sundae is the more than a dozen great grandchildren on the scene – with more on the way.  That isn’t what we specifically foresaw when we married in 1953.  Our world is a rapidly spinning carousel that instead of slowing down as we age keeps picking up speed.  Look out world, here we come!

So what does acting my age at 89 look like in 2018 given that ours is pan-generational, extended family constantly celebrating some family member’s birthday, or baptism, or confirmation, or graduation, or marriage, or anniversary, or promotion, or emergency or any of a myriad of other significant life events?  These are no send-a-card-and-forget-it moments.  Each calls for coordination, commitment – and our thoughtful and involved presence more than any presents.  And that is to say nothing about perennial requirements to weep with those who weep their way through break ups, broken bones, challenging diagnoses and zillions of other life setbacks.  That’s when perennials like us are on active duty ready with a sympathetic ear and an encouraging word.   Pooling all that reminds me of a favorite Rich Bimler-ism: “Getting older is the only way to live.”  To which we add, “…if you want to.”  Recognizing that wanting to honor our age is a choice that authentic perennials make – which is what this issue of JW is all about. 

  • It’s about the ever increasing number of us whom God has reserved to live past 85 years of age today under Mordecai’s “… for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)
  • It’s about the scary discovery that like it or not we perennials are pioneers with little precedent from our past to fall back upon as we face our new and changing world.
  • It’s about a willingness, under the Word, to adjust our way of viewing the challenges that our descendants face and offer them our best as the time tested 2018 perennials that we are.

Count me in. You?

Perennially, Charlie

Just Watching – May 2018

I’m not sure why but of late three things have been much on my mind –

  1. the word “grownup” (does anyone grow down?),
  2. Jack of Beanstalk fame and
  3. the world into which I recently slipped – or involuntarily slid – or maybe was pushed when I passed my 89th

Why now?  Is it because I am nearing 90 that end-of-life milestone that these three items are on my mind?  Maybe.  But as I fiddled with the three-some cited, a number of feelings surfaced starting with the word “grownup”.    

Digging around a little I discovered that “grown up” popped up in the English language in the 17th century.  Among several of its early meanings that word refers to growing, or becoming mature, or being adult, even ripening.  As I researched one of the questions I had was, “Is anyone ever fully grown up and, if so, how would she/he know?”  What do you think? 

As I traveled further down that road I wondered, “Do we first become a fully developed Grown UP, then shift life gears and start growing DOWN—whatever that might mean?”  I suspect that thought stemmed from the fairy story of Jack and his bean stalk that involved going UP the stalk and then DOWN.   Remember?

Jack was the son of a poor widow who sent him to sell her last possession: a cow.  Enroute to town Jack was talked into swapping the cow for some “magic” beans.  When he got back home and told his mom about his big deal she exploded with anger, threw those beans as far as she could, sent Jack to bed and grieved all night over having such a clueless son.

Overnight those beans sprouted where they were thrown and became a mighty vine sprang from the ground and swooped up into the clouds.  When Jack awoke and saw what had happened he clambered up that vine until he reached a giant’s castle where he found a pot of gold, a goose that laid golden eggs and a magic harp.  Snagging all three he slid down that vine bee lining it for home sweet home, the giant hot on his trail.  In the nick of time he hit the ground, chopped down the vine where it was goodbye giant and hello happily-ever-after.  Lutheran that I am I immediately asked, “What might all that mean?”  Could the story be about everyone’s experiences as they were growing older until they found themselves hip deep in the golden years (like my today?) wondering what else is there yet to come in life, Alfie?  

As a Christian I know there is more.  I’m heading for my Father’s house.   But what am I to do down here until that roll is called up yonder?  Shall I park my bus and wait?  Do I start growing down even though there is no reverse life?  No way.  Life is a one-way bean stalk.  We can grow only one way – up! 

If portions of the Psalms and many other places in Scripture are to be believed once we pass that three score and ten mile-stone there’s still much more gold in them thar’ comin’ years waiting to be found.  Endless TV commercials and print media ads push a their back-to-our-teens Plan B with youth-restoring pills, potions, lotions, dietary supplements and medical devices all guaranteed to reverse the tide of time.  I see them as age-denial fakes, short term placebos that steal from me the individualized golden years God tailored just for me.  To do what?   The gold is not in me.  It’s in caring for those still on the way.  Psalm 78:5-7 is a great growing up guide when it tells us:

“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them – the children yet unborn – and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments…”  

Translation?  Grown Ups stay busy helping their Growing Up descendants by Growing Out to them! 

Psalm 70:17,18 offers another punchy insight that will keep your Grown Up life growing:

“O God, from my youths thou hast taught me, and I still proclaim thy wondrous deeds.  So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, till I proclaim thy might to all the generations to come.  Thy power and Thy righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens.”  Translation?  We’re on duty, creaky bones and all, until we die.

At 89 years and 9 days I’m a work in process, a 21st century Growing UP great grandparent who is committed to Growing Out.   So, what else is there to do?  Want to team UP?